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HARNESS THE POWER OF YOUR IMAGES
Create a guide for your visual language
When used correctly, imagery is one of your most powerful tools in making you stand out from the competition. A visual language guide will ensure that the imagery you employ is homogeneous, does exactly what you want it to do and that your entire organisation speaks in images in the same way. But how do you create this type of guide? Find the answers in our interview with content strategist Peder Lingdén.

Hi Peder! Describe your job for us?
– I am a Content Strategist at the Sitrus Agency in Sweden. I'm helping my clients optimise their narrative communication in different channels and formats. My job is to help building consumer engagement and brand loyalty.

– In addition to being an experienced communications specialist, I have also lectured in photography and worked as a freelance photographer for many years. Visual communication is close to my heart.
What does the concept visual tonality mean?
– Most people agree that images are powerful and arouse emotions. But far from everyone reflects over what it is in the images that sets the tone. An image can be loud, quiet, cold, hot, over-explicit, slow or quick - in exactly the same way as we communicate verbally.

– If you wish to open an airy and harmonious yoga studio, you would probably not use strong colours like red and yellow or very detailed (busy) sepia toned images with vignetting. Having said that, the latter can work if you want to open a cosy New York style neighbourhood café.
– In other words, visual tonality is about your tone of voice, how you say things in an image. For example, you can run a bank in many different ways but your own special philosophy, your personality, should shine through in the images and all their component parts.
What can you gain by thinking carefully about visual tonality?
– Our brains love images, it is easier for us to remember them than words, and they often have a more direct effect on us. As such, visual communication is very powerful and if it does not speak the same language as you speak in general, your audience will be confused and have less faith in you.

– Conversely, it is also true to say that if you are meticulous with your visual tone of voice and leverage the power to communicate coherently - then you are onto a winner.
Why should you have an guide for the visual language, in your opinion?

– If you do not have any documentation or guidelines, it is very difficult or even impossible to remain consistent in your visual communication. Different stakeholders will pursue their own direction and likes and tastes. This is not an ideal situation.
People often talk about homogeneous imagery, what do they mean by that?
– If you are going to have credibility and come across as authentic as a communicator, it is important to be consistent. Of course, we all have different personality traits - brands too - but if you are hard-boiled one day, soft and considerate the next day and something else on day three, we simply become confused. Who are you, actually? Having a homogeneous imagery means that you have chosen a visual path and are sticking to it.
How do you avoid a visual language guide simply becoming yet another policy document amongst the pile?

– It has to be readily accessible and fun to read. It is rewarding to work with image styles as it feels natural to use examples, mood boards etc., that are easy to take in. Then you also need to include the educational aspects, naturally - show why tonality is both important and fun.
What basic components should a good visual language guide contain?
– In addition to educational and clearly presented guidelines, you need detailed context. How does your visual language fit into the grand scheme of things? What connection is there between visual identity and future goals? You do not want a document that says you should have short depth of field and strong colours, you want a document that tells the whole story and why short depth of field is so important for you in particular.

What should you definitely not do when you create a guide? 

– You should not go on opinions and tastes.

What is your best advice to someone to get started?

– Start at the right end and do plenty of solid preparatory work. Start with brand and identity, do a stock check of your personality traits and take it visually from there.
Black on white
Put colour to one side for a moment, and rest your eyes on our selection of black and white images instead. Something happens when we observe the world around us in black and white. Can you see how the motifs emerge in a different way? Can black and white be a way for you to be seen?
QUALITY SCHMALITY? Our view on a worn out word
- and why it makes all the difference to you.

Naturally, the composition of the image and how it communicates with the observer are important when you talk about quality. This is where it begins, but for us, it is about much, much more than that:

• That the image file is of the highest quality, with maximum information retained for best printing or retina displays and available in high resolution (100 MB).

• Legal quality, that you as the client know that the image has all the necessary releases from models and property owners etc. For maximum security, you can order a specific release for your particular publication. Especially good if you publish images in sensitive areas such as pharmaceuticals or politics.

• We know exactly how the image has been used previously to ensure you will know that no competitor is using the same image as your company.

• We have the highest credit rating, doing business with us is very secure.

• Our customer service is very highly rated by our customers.